History in the making

<strong>Iran Awakening</strong>

Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni<em> Rider Books, 232pp, £7.99</em

Gore Vidal once wrote that “a memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history”. Though largely written as a memoir, Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi – a leading human rights activist and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize – reads like the biography of a nation and the long-overdue history of contemporary Iran.

With a shrewd eye, Ebadi chronicles the most turbulent period in Iran’s history, from the US-led coup that brought down the prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, through the Islamic revolution in 1979, to the death of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi in Tehran’s Evin prison in 2003.

Once a target of the killing spree of intellectuals and activists by a rogue Islamist faction in Iran’s intelligence ministry in the late 1990s, Ebadi argues for an interpretation of Islam in harmony with equality and democracy, especially for women. This, along with the conviction that “change in Iran must come peacefully and from within”, has always underpinned her work.

Marked by its honesty and sobriety, Iran Awakening is a

must-read not only for a western audience, but also for Iranians as a contemplative treatment of their recent history: to remember what they have gone through and why.

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Pink Planet